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Cabarrus Magazine

'Up Front' Podcast Discusses School Board Indecision with Board Members

Oct 15, 2020 09:31AM ● By Jason Huddle

Episode 78: Plan A...No Wait...Plan B!

In July the Cabarrus County Board of Education reversed an earlier decision to go to Plan B for students and elected to move to Plan C (all virtual learning). Now, history has seemed to repeat itself. Just recently, the board elected to move to Plan for students in grades K-5, after Gov. Cooper said they could. Then, just this past week, the board reversed that decision and voted to go to Plan B. These instances of indecision have left many parents frustrated and confused. We wanted answers.
So, this week, we welcomed three members of the school board, Carolyn Carpenter, Cindy Fertenbaugh and Holly Grimsley, on to the program to explain their decision and answer some tough questions. 

Jason Huddle  00:00

Back in July, the Cabarrus County Board of Education voted under the new rules from the governor to pursue plan B for educational learning in Cabarrus. County. Then a couple of weeks later, reversed that decision and instituted plan C, which is all virtual learning. Now it's happened again after the governor stated that children in grades K through five could return to plan A learning. The Cabarrus County School Board decided to follow that then just this past week, they reversed that decision and instituted Plan B. The decision has left many parents exasperated, frustrated and searching for answers.


Cindy Fertenbaugh  00:36

We threw a major curve at parents, major curve.


Jason Huddle  00:39

This week, we talked to three members of the Board of Education as they explained and sometimes defend their decision.


Carolyn Carpenter  00:46

I wish we had`ve waited before we made a decision to begin with. But if I said hey, you've got to wait another way, then you're only given the parents a week for this part. For two weeks we waited another week in (inaudiable) because we only gave them a week and a half or you know, even less time.


Jason Huddle  01:09

That's all just a head on Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine, a presentation of CabCo Media Group and sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Cabarrus Eye Center, Cabarrus Health Alliance, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Geico Concord Mills office, Level Up Realty, New Hope Worship Center, and Walk Cabarrus. I'm your host, Jason Huddle. Hello, my friends, and welcome once again to another edition of Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine episode 78. And it's a little bit of deja vu. Here we are, again, talking with members of the Board of Education just a few weeks ago before school started. We were talking to them about the reversal of their decision to go from Plan B to plan C. And now we find ourselves having a similar discussion because they had decided to move to plan A for elementary children grades K through five. And now they've decided to backpedal on that and go to plan B after releasing the information to parents that they were going to plan a I have personally talked to some parents and teachers that are very frustrated at this decision. And they needed some answers. I wanted to get them some. So I put out a call to all of the members of the Board of Education, including Superintendent Louder, and in the interest of full disclosure, I will let you know they had very short notice. So the fact that we had three members willing and able to show up, I was thrilled because I did not give them a lot of notice on coming on to the program. So don't think that those that are not involved in this episode refused to come on or anything like that. In some cases, they may not have even received the email yet. That's how short notice they got. So with that said, I am skipping shameless plug time, all that good stuff today because we have a lot to get to. And I know you want to hear it too. So we're just going to take a quick little break and then we'll be back right after these messages from our sponsors. with Cindy Fertenbaugh, Holly Grimsley and Carolyn Carpenter all from the Cabarrus County Board of Education. You guys stay tuned.


Commercial  03:17



Jason Huddle  03:27

Welcome back to the program. We are pleased once again to have several members of the Cabarrus County Board of Education on with us today Cindy Fertenbaugh, Miss Carolyn Carpenter and Holly Grimsley are all on the line with us to talk about this recent vote to return back to plan B. The reason why I wanted to have you guys on the program is because I think there's a lot of parents that are very frustrated and confused about this is the second time now that news has gone out that the school board has decided a certain course of action and then people start to plan for that. And then another course of action is chosen. So I think people are wanting some answers as to why you guys felt like it was necessary to go to back to plan B, when news was released earlier that the plan A had been for elementary students had been accepted. So I'll let anybody want to take that. Whoever feels like they want to jump on them?


Carolyn Carpenter  06:08

Well, I think maybe I should do it since I made the vote.


Jason Huddle  06:12



Carolyn Carpenter  06:13

First of all, I want to make sure that you realize now Miss Grimsley I'm gonna put it to you first, when we put the vote in place, we had a feature in there this safety features would be put in place. And when we say safety features included, wearing masks, having social distancing, washing hands, taking temperature, is that not correct? Did not I made it perfectly clear that if we could not social distance, that I couldn't support it. Is that not correct?


Holly Grimsley  06:51

You did.


Carolyn Carpenter  06:53

Okay, all right. So then they did a survey. And that survey was not even gonna be complete until September 30. And so we were not being gone. I mean, the numbers could not even be done. Now Dr. Louder, even stated. He said, now, in all of us, the board members knew that some kind of figure had been thrown out of possibly 40% maybe wouldn't come back. Well, that was the case. That kindergarten through third, might could squeak by and have the social distancing. But we didn't know if that number was even possible. But we weren't going to have those. Now I mean, the numbers couldn't even learning going come back to September the 30th. We did not even get the first preliminary numbers and that survey, keep in mind, that survey asked parents, are you going to stay remote? Or are you going to come back face to face when it said face it didn't give it an option of option A or Option B, it said face to face. So face to face could be option A or Option B numbers did not come to our hand, or we did not even get them till October the second that's the first time we've got them. And those numbers come back at sx people saying they wanted to have face to face it come back at 67.14 said they wanted face to face. That was that was actually including a and b and I keep seeing people saying 70% that is not 70%. Then they said that they wanted to have return remotely 32%. That said they wanted to that they want to stay remote. That's what that survey said. Now, I asked Dr. Louder to give me the numbers for only kindergarten through a third grade because that was the ones we said we wanted to have to do. A and they didn't give me a break down on that one. Cause that was the one we wanted to social distance. I did not get that until four o'clock the day of the meeting to see if we could social distance. When he gave me those numbers. There was no way we could social distance. We could wash the hands and everything but we couldn't social distance. So when that came back to me at four o'clock that afternoon, and we could do it B and B was what the recommendation of our superintendent was that we could safely do. They act and so that was why we went with the recommendation of our superintendent. I'll let the other people speak.


Cindy Fertenbaugh  10:08

I wanted to share also that the other thing that happened and I kept my boat the same I was proposing for option Plan B. But the other thing that happened in last week is that some of us had the opportunity to visit an elementary school. And it's the New Hickory Ridge Elementary School. But one of the things, areas of interest was for the principal to show us all of the classroom setups. And it could easily accommodate about 15 students in a class with safely socially distancing. At the six feet limit, sometimes that meant desk will place or tables were placed against walls in order to use the perimeter area as well. And they could accommodate that. So fourth, and fifth grade were absolutely no problem to bring back then back in Plan B, when we got to the lower grades, it became more of a concern, there was pretty much a minimal of a three foot distance, the teacher would not have as much distance even to walk around the classroom to check on whatever work was happening in the classroom that day. And when we got to certain programs, like the language immersion programs, those classes could not socially distance it all because they have a higher number of students. And it was likely that the percentage of coming back under Plan A was going to be high. So I also want to I guess, share that we had many parents who chose plan A, as a means to get their children back in school, because they didn't get to choose B, it was only A or C. And so that high 60% number I know is often quoted as 70 I don`t know if its is quite 70%. But that high 60% number represents the parents who didn't want to come back at a but felt they had no choice. But to choose A to get their kids back in school at least two days a week.


Jason Huddle  12:04

I think the frustration is I'm sure that the reasoning is good. You know, you have your your statistics to back up your your vote. I don't think anybody's disputing that, I think where the confusion and the frustration lies with some people in the population, some parents in the community is that decisions once again, this happened in July. And then it happened again, where news went out that a certain decision had been made. And so people started planning for that. Parents, in this case, I've talked to several parents, they've they were their children were in daycare, and they released their daycare spots to plan for their children to return to school. And then this decision was made, which was a reversal of that. And so they went back to their daycares to get their spots, and they were gone. So things like that happening. I'm sure you can see the frustration from parents in to that end, that once a decision has been made. They can't count on the school board to keep those decisions, is that fair?


Holly Grimsley  13:12

So Jason, I would like to speak to the response to Miss Fertenbaugh, Miss Carolyn Carpenters and discussion of the motion. Can we stay there for just a moment?


Jason Huddle  13:23

I tell you what, let me do this. Let me throw it to break because I asked the question, and I hate to cut you off, but I right at break time. So let me throw it to break and we come back. I will allow you to answer the question. Fair enough?


Holly Grimsley  13:36



Jason Huddle  13:37

All right. All right, you guys stick around. We have a few messages from our sponsors. We will be back with members of the Cabarrus County School Board in just a moment. Stay tuned.


Commercial  13:46



Jason Huddle  13:58

And welcome back to the program talking today with Carolyn Carpenter, Cindy Fertenbaugh and Holly Grimsley. They're all members of the Cabarrus County Board of Education, about the going back to plan B from plan A and all the confusion and trying to answer some questions here. And before the break, I had asked Holly, or I had asked the group, but Holly wanted to respond about the parents frustration of decisions being made and then reversed. And how this is the second time this has happened during this whole ordeal. So Holly, I will give you the floor.


Holly Grimsley  15:37

Okay, great. Thanks, Jason. So Miss Carpenter asked me to confirm her verbiage during the discussion on that original motion. And I did and she did speak to all of those, after the fact, or during the governor removed. That requirement, the social distancing aspect. Now, not that I agree with any portion of that. Nor do I feel like we don't have to adhere to some measures of that. But in my motion, I stated, the safety measures. And of course, we all know, that's the masks, the washing the hands, the deep cleaning, you know, all those other aspects and what social distancing we could do, there was not a real definitive social distancing verbiage placed in there, I assumed and it was stated that night that Dr. Louder and the staff would do what they needed to do to make that happen. Number one, if masking is working, and that's supposedly the number one monitor defense, that is a mandate that would take place all day long, between children and teachers. Number two, I'm not real sure why fourth and fifth, are not even in the equation, because they were only going to be in Plan B, of going the two days on two days off. So we're only really addressing pre K through 3rd which have lower numbers by state law anyway, I get it about the language immersion classes. But with those, I'm not sure why we can't, if those appear to be just like we do with any other class, when there's more than so many kids in a class at any grade level, we create another class and add another teacher. And at this point time, I would think that that's something that the board and the staff would really look hard at just to make sure that that would happen and accommodate that situation. So that's where I was going with that piece of it. But what I'm frustrated the most about is there was no heads up that we were going to have that discussion at a work session meeting. There were no ability to be able to ask questions regarding making that change that was done off the cuff. We didn't all get an invite, or the opportunity to go figure out what some of the others that are doing, that the other districts have done. It's real frustrating to me that we should have followed our own rules of what we normally do, and that is have discussion. And then if we're going to do something different vote for that at our business meeting, which is what we normally do. Now, it's been stated that I made a motion to amend the agenda prior too. Well, that was a special called meeting just for those topics of discussion. And on top of that, I did not amend anything. We amended the agenda. But all I wanted was clarification on the motion that was made. We were not making a new motion. We were not changing anything. We were just having a point of clarification. So I just wanted to make sure that was clear of where I was employer. My position was this past Monday night.


Cindy Fertenbaugh  18:41

As clarification the visits to the elementary school was the scheduled Hickory Ridge Elementary School visit which we were all invited too. We just had to go into groups of three or less, and none of the board members went to visit Union County schools that was purely a staff activity.


Holly Grimsley  18:57



Jason Huddle  18:58

I'd like to if I could get back to my question that I asked before the break, though, because I don't feel like that's been addressed yet from from anybody is can you understand that parents are frustrated with the actions that the school board has taken. It has created confusion and frustration with the parents can can somebody address that?


Cindy Fertenbaugh  19:20

Sure, I can understand that. But as far as the parents that want to keep their kids at home, they have that option, regardless, correct, they can stay in the virtual school.


Cindy Fertenbaugh  19:20

Yes, absolutely, I say absolutely. I understand. I appreciate I feel for them. In the week prior. I have said I you know with support even though I disagreed I was support what the majority of the board said so I didn't have any intention to bring it back. But I do fully understand what Miss Carpenter was saying. And I kept my vote the same. So I said I hate that it has caused disruption. But I think it's important for people to understand as many frustrated emails as we have received. We have also received many, many emails that said thank heavens I can send my child back to school. Now in the end I believe we're going to have more children come in person under Plan B, then we were under the choices of A or C.


Cindy Fertenbaugh  20:19

That (inaudiable)


Jason Huddle  20:21

Right. So I guess the concern is, what parents are to do with a plan B situation where they don't have the means to care for their kids, maybe they have to work or they're single parents or whatever, where they're, they're having to deal with that. And now, some of these parents have relinquished their daycare opportunities and things like that, I guess. We're just trying to figure out, at what point do we say, okay, the kids can go back to school. Enough is enough. My question is, if we're waiting for this, for Corona, virus to be completely eradicated, it's going to be maybe next fall, before we can send the kids back to school, is that what we're talking about?


Holly Grimsley  21:08

That's what I've been talking about, you know, at most of the meetings, that's, that's my point of frustration with all this week, we are at a point where now when we're trying to get back, it's going to run into another season. Other issues, and, you know, now, now we have a whole new group of challenges, you know, it's, it's never going to be a perfect time, ever, everybody's finding that out every district, every industry, you know, we just have to do the best that we can, you know, there are so many workers that have been back since day one, you know, we, they don't get the opportunity to say, you know, what, we want to do this remote from home, you know, there are many that can and they can do that and that they're flexible, that's great. But there's a lot that are not, and they've been back since day one, we're all having to get back out there and do what we need to do, and make life somewhat normal. The frustration with this is, now that we've waited so long, and we're trying to implement it, and we've changed it, parents are at just a huge emotional time, with so much they've been trying to do they're normalized, raise children work, and be the teacher. And I'm sure there's a lot out there that will say forever now. You know, this is not what I ever want to do, teachers will gain a huge respect for what they do all day long, you know, in the classroom setting. And as much as we want to recognize that they are as essential to those kids that as firemen and policemen and nurses and doctors that don't get an opportunity to say, Hey, you know what, we'll do this from home. And it'll be just as effective. It's not, and it will not be virtual learning is not for every child, and we're finding out is not for a lot of children. I wish there was the environment out there that every parent had the ability to teach their children, juggle work, juggle family, and make it work and teachers be a part of that. I wish that was but it's not the case. That is just not the case. There are so many children out there that have made in our community right now that they're not being met, they are absolutely not being met. And it is not the fault of our teachers, you know that that message is being sent to them for some reason, and I'm not even sure why. To me, you could be the most perfect teacher and you know, I watched with my grandson, you know, they have that absolute teacher could not do a better job. But that is not always the point. The point of delivery of education also ends with the child what their abilities are, what what access they have to internet and device. And is it is it is it good systems, you know, there's so many challenges to this remote learning for a lot of kids, there are some that have done really well. And that's great. That's why what we did was working, that should have worked better. Those those kids and families that wanted their children at home and in that environment had that opportunity. We took away the opportunity for that for the others, the pre K through third, who are the ones that has to have an adult sitting there, monitoring them being a part of that process interpreting, translating, make sure and they could hear two weeks ago, they all lost volume. I lost volume for a couple of hours. You know, there was nothing back and forth. There's just so many things that take place. But we've we've taken that ability out for that that population that's why that population was important to me was that pre K to third because they can't do this by themselves. They're not middle schoolers and hospitals that that can they can work through that and they don't need somebody there. You know, continuous like 5678 year olds do. And they all don't have the ability to have that make make that happen every day. I feel like we did it in too quickly. This past week. We did it preliminary. We still got two weeks before that was actually going To take place where we could have looked at those numbers to make sure that they're going to be on the date clock, because we all heard that that was probably a little bit of a labor day spike, even though it was a very little spike. You know, I feel like the numbers would have declined, we should have waited. And I feel like that was just a little bit of a knee jerk reaction to what was going on. There I know I heard Miss Carpenter say, you know, that was very concerning to her. And I did get that. But I wish we would have held that night for discussion. And got that out there. Instead of doing, you know, we wake them up major curve to parents major curve, I just wish we would have followed what we normally do and had the discussion, put it all out there, what needed to be discussed and why, and then had taken it up this coming Monday night. So we couldn't have got we've could have gotten some feedback.


Jason Huddle  25:43

I need to throw it to break one more time when we come back. I have one more question. I'll let you guys respond to that. And then I have one more question regarding special needs students. Let me just throw up a break and we will be back right after these messages. Stay tuned.


Commercial  25:55



Commercial  26:05

And welcome back. We're here to close out the program real quick, with our members of the Cabarrus County Board of Education. Do you Miss Fertenbaughr? Miss Carpenter? Do you either of you want to respond to Holly's statements before the break?


Carolyn Carpenter  27:25

Well, one of the things I did want to respond to yes, I know numbers did and I had already checked about the increase which the the health director had told me that they thought maybe it was a Labor Day, you know, the Labor Day holiday. And that, they were gonna watch it. And it did go down. It did go down to 5.5 this week. And that's a moving number. It goes up and down. But one of the things is, I wish we had`ve waited before we made a decision to begin with. But if I said hey, you've got to wait another way, then you're only given the parents a week for this part. For two weeks we waited another week in (inaudiable) because we only gave them a week and a half or you know, even less time. So I mean, there's no perfect answer. If we would have waited in that, Holly, that one of your things. Oh, let's give them more time to push the point to give them more time.


Holly Grimsley  28:45

But cariloha are talking about is that's waited, I think we would have seen that those ratios and the numbers and the indicators would have been declined and we wouldn't have needed to have changed is what I'm talking about.


Carolyn Carpenter  28:56

And one of the things I hear you compare the virus to the flu, the flu is coming up. It's very, completely different. The flu you got a vaccination for you know what it is this week. We don't know what it is. And one of the things and I'm gonna say it right up front is my wishes. And what I would love to say is how and I hope our staff are doing it right now. We can get over the social distancing, and hopefully, they're getting in the b. And you're working now for us to get around the social dissing her getting something worked out for a plan. And we could maybe see these children back in before the Christmas holidays. That would be the most perfect type thing and I would love to see that and that would be great because we all know And it is a fact that that group of children, they are the lowest for, you know, the spread of the virus. And we all know that.


Jason Huddle  30:11

Let me, let me cut you off Carolyn, because we`re. We're running off of running out of time. And I know that Miss Cindy has to go. But I do want to ask one more question of you guys. Because I don't know. And one of the questions has been raised since July is what about special needs children, they need more attention than anybody else. And they are the ones that have if any student has been left behind in this whole situation, it's been children with special needs. So what measures are being taken to make sure that children with special needs are being attended to right now.


Cindy Fertenbaugh  30:44

Well first of all there so that I can head off to my other meeting that I'm overlapping right now, the centralized classroom students, which are often as severe and profound. Often the autistic students, they will come back to school four days a week, even at a plan B. They are focused in a small classroom environment with their instructors, and their teacher assistance. So they will come back four days a week, that includes the high school occupational classes. So that's the good thing for the children who have IEPs or 504 plans, who will fall into the come back to school two days a week, they also have opportunities for some remediation and outside work. And from my understanding staff is meeting starting to do the IEPs with the parents, they're doing them virtually right now. And eventually they'll start coming into school to to have those IEP meetings. So without jumping into every child in school every day, which is not practical, right now, we are giving some focused attention to the most needs.


Jason Huddle  31:55

That is good news. I'm glad to hear that. I will let that be the last word. Cindy Fertenbaugh, Carolyn Carpenter and Holly Grimsley from the Cabarrus County Board of Education. Thank you so much for joining us today. Really appreciate what you guys are doing. I know that none of these decisions are easy. And I don't want to make it sound like you know, monday morning quarterbacking here. I'm just trying to ask questions that I know people are asking me. So I just want to give answers for them. So I thank you for your taking your time today. And being on the program.


Cindy Fertenbaugh  32:28

Thank you.


Carolyn Carpenter  32:28

Thank you.


Holly Grimsley  32:29

Thank you for having us, Jason.


Jason Huddle  32:35

I do once again thank Cindy furtenbach, Carolyn Carpenter and Holly Grimsley, for coming on to the show on such short notice, I really appreciate their time. And I do mean when I said I don't take lightly the fact that they're making decisions that affect a lot of people. And there really is no good decision to make, you're going to make somebody unhappy no matter what you do. I totally get that. But there are still some questions that I have. For instance, I feel like the parent survey that was sent out was kind of used against the parents that want to send their kids back or need to send their kids back to school. In other words, they said it was close to 70% 67%, or something like that. I think they said that parents said they wanted their kids to go back to school. Now Miss Fertenbaugh used conjecture, I believe to say that a majority of those were parents that just needed their kids back in school. That may or may not be true. I personally don't know. But I feel like the survey was used against parents because those that legitimately wanted their kids back in school. The higher the percentage, the more the school board, it seems got scared to put the kids back in school. So it seems that survey was used more to gauge how many kids are going to have back in the schools rather than what is it that you want. You see the difference there. But I do stand by my point from earlier. At some point, we have to realize that we are never going to be completely over this. Even after a vaccine comes out. There's going to be remnants of it, there are going to be people that still get it for one reason or another. But the science everybody loves to follow science right though science tells us these kids are not as susceptible to COVID. And let's not forget, we're not talking just about throwing the kids back in school as if nothing happened. We're talking about temperature checks. We're talking about hand sanitization all the time. We're talking about one way in one way out, controlling the flow, social distancing. These are things that are going to be taking place. So I think there is a way to get these kids back in school safely. I'm not discounting the danger of COVID but at some point, we have to realize that this virus for that age group is, in a very rare case, lethal. And in most cases, children either don't get it or they get over it very quickly. This is what the science is telling us. So I'm a little confused on the back and forth. But that's just my opinion. I am out of time for today. But you have been listening to Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine, a presentation of CabCo Media Group and sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Cabarrus Eye Center, Cabarrus Health Alliance, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Geico Concord Mills office, Level Up Realty, New Hope Worship Center, and Walk Cabarrus. Up front with Cabarrus Magazine is produced and hosted by yours truly Jason Huddle. And until next week, better call a daycare again, I guess

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